All this talk about women and girls! Why so much focus on them? What makes them more important than the males? Don’t they matter too? Don’t they get hurt as well? And if they do get hurt or sodomised, will they receive treatment just like the girls do? Does ‘gender’ refer to females only?
These are some of the numerous questions asked on a daily basis, some men even expressing outright bitterness and rage as they complain about all the attention and focus directed at girls and women. Many males feel that the table has turned, and that it is unfair, and that boys are being neglected.
Well, guess what? Good news is that this is a misconception.
Gender: refers to the culturally and socially constructed perception of male and female. Gender refers more to the roles of males and females rather than the biological difference between males and females.
Sex: refers to the biological characteristics of an individual that determine whether they are male or female.
Interestingly, a male (sex) can prefer to be viewed as a female, and dress and act like one….some even go to the extent of having surgical and hormonal alterations to look like the opposite sex.
This is why when filling certain forms, at the point of
GENDER: MALE or FEMALE… some challenges may arise. It should be more like
GENDER: MALE, FEMALE, TRANGENDER, NOT SURE, ALL THE ABOVE.
Gender–based violence (GBV): involves both men and women: usually refers to violence directed against a female simply because she is a female.
Forms of Violence: Physical, psychological, sexual abuse, especially by intimate partners. Other forms of GBV include honour crimes, rape, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), forced marriage, sexual exploitation, rape as a weapon, forced pregnancy, among others.
Some of you may be aware of the infanticide that happens in certain parts of the world where female infants are killed at birth, simply because they are considered to be of no value to the family, and may actually be viewed as a liability upon marriage (hence females pay ‘bride price’).
Frequently, especially in low socioeconomic homes, the girl child is forced to drop out of school to carry out household tasks such as cooking and cleaning, or even worse, be forced into child labor or prostitution, while the boy child continues with school.
Gender Equality: refers to the view that females should enjoy the same rights and opportunities as the males, and not be discriminated against based on their gender. This has been misconstrued to mean women are equal to men, and has been used against women who are then forced to work (jobs or businesses), cook, clean, take care of the babies and still contribute equally to financial matters in the home.
Of course there is no way women are equal to men. Men are larger, physically stronger and present a different set of strengths, and women have their strengths in other areas such as their naturally nurturing nature, among others.
OK, so what?
The reason all this effort is put into the females is because women and children are more vulnerable. They are more prone to all forms of abuse and discrimination than males are.
The general society is culturally adapted to silencing females, teaching females from a young age that their problems are not important, that their troubles are not to be spoken of, and that they should just suck it up and get on with it. Some are even ostracized if they mention incidents like rape or domestic issues, and hence many opt to remain silent about such incidents in their lives.
This is evident to me on a daily basis, when I attend to victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) who are finally courageous enough to reach out for help. Most do this after years of continuous beatings, some even to the point of hospitalization. It is not uncommon to hear some men ask “what did she do? She must have done something to provoke him to beat her”.
Now, while we are all aware of domestic violence, what most people don’t know is that it is almost always coupled with rape, sometimes even in the presence of children. But the sexual abuse is never reported.
“ But a man cannot rape his wife!?” “ It is his right”..WRONG! Society has taught us all to believe this but this is not the case. Yet, everyone has a right to his or her body and what they shall do with it, but that’s a topic for another day.
This is a culture that must be stopped. Teaching our children to solve problems by aggression or silence is not the way to handle problems.
Children observing these ways of relating with each other end up repeating the same cycle that they have grown up in. Our girls grow up believing they are inferior, and tolerate abuse as a result.
And this is why several groups have come up to fight this negative attitude and empower the girl child who has been forgotten for so many decades. To teach her to love and respect herself and her body, to appreciate herself, and to embrace and empower other females. The girl child is being educated to give her the skills needed to take care of herself and her children, to secure a better future for herself and inevitably, the nation.
Thus, it’s not that the boy child has been forgotten, we are simply helping the girl child to catch up, and bring her to the same level, with the same opportunities the boys already have by virtue of being …male.